The Accent Question: Why I think it’s important RA gets it right

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I know that certain fans from overseas are having a difficult time understanding why some of us are so concerned about Mr. Armitage’s accent in the upcoming film Black Sky.
Here are my thoughts on the subject, for what it’s worth.

Let me start by saying I am a huge movie buff. Being out of work for nearly a year has allowed me to watch lots of films (see, there’s a silver lining in every cloud), including those from the Golden Age of the silver screen. Back in the day, Hollywood leading actors who were Americans rarely even attempted to do accents, regardless of whether they were playing Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, or some other nationality. Clark Gable always sounded like Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, like Robert Taylor. Occasionally, they would add a slight English twist or attempt a regional accent, with mixed success.  Accents were largely left to the character actors.

Gary Cooper was a wonderful actor and he gave a great performance as pacifist turned WW I hero, Sgt. Alvin York in Sergeant York.  But I can assure you his “mountaineer” accent was not always credible. It wasn’t “Sarah Caulfield awful,” mind you; it just missed capturing the true flavor of the regional dialect. My own mother hailed from the same hometown in Tennessee and the speech patterns of Crossville and the Cumberland Plateau differ from other parts of the state.  It’s becoming more homogenized nowadays, but back then, there was an unmistakable lilting cadence to local speech that entranced me from childhood.

Remember when Kevin Costner played Robin Hood in the Prince of Thieves film? At times he sounded vaguely British, but most of the time he sounded like, well-Kevin Costner, with that slight Midwestern twang–a tad out of place in the middle of Nottinghamshire. As I recall, he got quite a bit of flack for it.

The Great Legend with a Midwestern twang.

In recent years, it has become more important for the leading man to also display character actor skills–that is, to be able to perform a credible accent suitable to the role he is playing. Sometimes lead actors still avoid attempting an accent; as a German officer in Valkyrie, Tom Cruise stuck with an American accent. Perhaps memories of the less-than-enthused critical reaction to his Irish brogue in Far & Away haunted him.

The fact is, here in the US, an actor who can’t “cut the mustard” when it comes to delivering a reasonably credible regional or foreign accent has a strike against him. If Andrew Lincoln, Richard’s co-star in Strike Back hadn’t been able to pull off a decent southern accent for the role of a Georgia lawman in The Walking Dead, it’s highly unlikely he would have ever been cast, no matter how good of an actor he is.

Andrew Lincoln (center) and his co-stars in The Walking Dead (coincidentally, the actress playing Lincoln’s wife is co-starring with RA in Black Sky).

Not being able to sound like someone other than yourself tends to put limitations on an actor in terms of the roles offered to him in television and film (Sir Sean Connery, the perpetual Scotsman notwithstanding)

Now, do not get me wrong; I completely and utterly adore Richard’s natural Midlands accent. Like all Americans, it seems, I am a sucker for a British accent. But I also know that some of the British actors I admire most–Michael Gambon,  Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, to name a few–can also manage  credible American accents.  Yes, it’s true that his voice will be dubbed in overseas markets. But lots of ticket buyers are American. The studio execs are American. Like it or not, it is important.

http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/poetry.html

Two years ago, Richard participated in a poetry reading for Words and Music for BBC Radio. Click on the above link to access the RA-only portion of the broadcast (the American accent begins about halfway through this snippet).

At the time, a number of fans (mostly fellow Americans) expressed disappointment with the accent RA adopted for some of the American poetry. Of course, this was two years ago and a lot can change in that space of time. One imagines he’s been working at it.  My take on the Words and Music performance? It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great. Definitely room for improvement.

I am hoping that Richard’s casting as an American school teacher is an indication he made a favorable impression on the casting director in terms of his American accent. We know on his first visit to America several years back, RA’s attempt at a Yank accent apparently fell flat (he read in what he thought was an American accent, and was asked to repeat it “and this time, in an American accent.”) Bless his heart.

So Richard, my hope is that you go forth and knock everyone’s cotton socks off as a Oklahoman in the big screen, accent and all!

(Admittedly, it probably doesn’t help that I have a particularly good ear for accents and have since I was very young. I am a natural mimic. I have no formal dialect training, but I can pull off a pretty darned good Brit accent. I have been known to fool people.  So I hold those who do have training and do this for a living to particularly high standards, I suppose. I just don’t want him to appear on EW.com’s list of Worst Movie Accents Ever.)

About fedoralady

I'm an LA native--Lower Alabama, that is. My husband of more than 30 years and I live here on a portion of my family's former farm with two gorgeous calicos and a handsome GSD mix. My background is art education, and over the years I've been a teacher, department store photographer, sales associate and a journalist. My husband, his business partner and I have Pecan Ridge Productions, a video production company, for which I shoot & edit video and stills and manage marketing. I also still write part-time for the local paper. I love movies, music, art, photography and books, and my tastes in all of them are eclectic.

91 responses »

  1. Sorry but America is still only a part of the world, NOT the world. Anyway, weren’t the studio execs. who cast Richard in “Black Sky” Americans? If they were satisfied…….

    • Kathryn, of course, it’s only part of the world. I didn’t say it was the world. I don’t THINK it’s THE world, truly I do not. But let’s be realistic. Hollywood, where many, many movies are bred and born, IS in fact, located in the US. Many British actors do come here because of the greater number of opportunities and the fact the pay is better. It’s a business. You go where the work is. People may not like it, but that’s the way it is. Readers were asking why the accent was a concern in other posts and I was simply sharing my thoughts. I am sorry if I somehow caused offense.

      • Oh, Angie, you couldn’t cause offence if you tried, my dear. I’m sorry if I sounded angry or whatever because I’m not. I know Richard will have to master some of the regional differences if he’s going to do much work in the US. I tried listening to the “Words and Music” bit again with objective ears (LOL) and maybe he didn’t do as well as I originally thought. See – you’re teaching me to listen with an open mind 😀

        • I just want readers to understand I do not think I am superior or infallible. I do the best I know how. I try to be honest in expressing my viewpoints and attempt to explain why I think or feel as I do. I am not saying I am always right–some topics are more subjective than objective, and it’s hard to say what or who is right or wrong. I am not a brilliant analyst like Serv–I am just what I am. It’s all I know how to be.

  2. You keep panning Genevieve O’Reilly but have you ever seen her in other productions? She’s a reasonable actor, you know, even if she did get THAT role wrong. But she’s not the only one who’s ever stuffed up an accent.

    Sorry but it does get a bit stale this American obsession with foreigners getting the American regional accents right. As long as Richard sounds sort-of American and not in the least bit English, surely that’ll satisfy…seeing it’s his first American role. You can’t count “Captain America” – he was supposed to be a German faking an American accent

    • Yes, I have seen her in other productions. Her natural accent is lovely. But I am sorry, I will not back down on the fact her American accent was lousy on Spooks. I am an American, so I think I have a pretty good idea what Americans sound like and she was all over the damned map, Kathryn. She couldn’t seem to key in on where she was supposed to be from. Maybe she was badly directed to do so; I don’t know, I thought the whole character was misconceived. Sorry if you think me picky for being bothered by that bizarre accent, but there is is. Other actors affected American accents on that show and did very well in my opinion–Mr. Bell, Brian Protheroe, for example. There are American actors who can’t do decent accents. I just used the example of GOR because I am assuming everyone who reads this blog has probably heard her accent on the show and that wouldn’t be the case with some other actors I might refer to.

      And since he only had a couple of lines in CA and was indeed playing a German impersonating an American, that is why I didn’t bring that role up. This role will be the litmus test.

      Please, let’s not turn this into an argument. You’ve stated your position; I have stated mine. Let others weigh in on what they think about the subject. This was NOT meant to be an Americans are superior to the rest of the world post, and honestly, I don’t think it reads that way and it’s disheartening to me that you have chosen to interpret it in that manner.

      • I didn’t think you were saying that Americans were superior. But you and others on here seem to think that American movies are made for Americans – I thought they were made for international audiences as well?

        I have read all the other comments below. In 13 years, I have never read anywhere that Richard wants to make it big in American movies/television in particular – he’s implied that he wishes to be better known – again that suggests world-wide recognition.

        And where did people get the idea that Richard wants or needs to make heaps of money in a hurry? He’s said that he worries if he’s not working regularly, but that’s only natural if he wants some sort of financial security for any future family he may have. Nothing he has said implies that he’s just a money-grubbing person who wants millions of dollars per role!

        Money certainly doesn’t equate to success to me – some of those highly-paid actors out of Hollywood aren’t anywhere near as talented as Richard. He will be just as successful IMHO if he does just a few American shows and then goes back to doing smaller but significant roles elsewhere – on television, in films or on stage.

        Sorry, I’m really not trying to be argumentative; I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate. Let’s just wait and see how he goes in “Black Sky” – maybe Richard’ll ask for volunteer language coaches if he stuffs this one up 😉

        • I have personally never thought Richard Armitage was “money grubbing” and I don’t believe the majority of the fans think he is, either.

          I do think he is pretty ambitious in terms of his career or he wouldn’t have stuck with it and worked so hard all these years. He has said he wants to raise his profile in the US. Raising his profile in the US means to a considerable extent being hired for roles in Hollywood movies. I am sorry, but those are simply the cold hard facts. American movies are made in hopes of gaining an international audience, certainly. Considering the huge investment studios now make, you need to succeed internationally if you want to make a decent profit. But if you flop here, it really hurts your chances of doing that. And studios do love that bottom line.

          I did say many actors come here to the US for more career opportunities and better pay. Is Ryan Kwanten, an Australian, money grubbing because he is playing a role as an American (and doing a fine job, too) in a high-profile American show that probably pays better than most of his work did back home? I don’t think so. Is Andrew Lincoln, a Brit, mercenary because he is playing an American sheriff’s deputy in a high-profile American show, or Damian Lewis, a Brit . . . well, you get the idea.

          Monies made in high-profile roles in big-budget productions can go to fund things like, oh, the Richard III project–roles and projects dear to an actor’s heart. Those monies can also allow an actor financial security in a long-term form while he/she pursues roles in smaller film productions, stage work, etc. which is satisfying but doesn’t pay nearly as well. Paul McCartney once said the thing about having money was it gave you freedom–freedom to explore other options in life and in your professional career. No, money doesn’t equate professional or personal success. But it’s nice to see someone who deserves it recompensed. It’s good to see them achieve that sort of freedom if possible.

          Here is what I personally think: Richard is always going to wonder “what if?” if he doesn’t make a solid, concerted effort to have success in an American film playing an American. Maybe I am totally off-base, but that is the vibe that I get.

          And I am quite certain that he will give this role in this film–just as he has given every role I have ever seen him in–his best. And, of course, I will be delighted to assist him if he needs any help with a southern accent. 😉

        • He said in one interview that if you don’t make it in LA people think you have failed. I suppose he could become an internationally known film actor by appearing in internationally successful British films, but that didn’t happen. Either British film makers didn’t cast him for whatever reason or he choose to do TV instead.

  3. I can understand your point of view. It’s an American film for an American public.
    If I am not mistaken in the Hobbit he will talk with the British accent. In this case I would ask you if it bothers American people (in general) ?

    • Thanks, Nadia. In the case of The Hobbit films, pretty much everyone does speak with a British accent who will appear in the films (most are British, Aussies or Kiwis, anyway) I remember in LOTR that Viggo as Aragorn also used a British accent as did some of the other Americans who appeared in the trilogy. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood, for example. So I think American audiences are going to expect to hear a lot of Brit accents and certainly won’t have a problem with it. I guess since Tolkien was a Brit, we sort of imagine Middle-Earth as being in the same neighborhood. 😉 As I said, we are suckers for British accents here. We’d just think it was rather odd if an English teacher who is supposed to be from the central US sounded like he was from Leicestershire. 😉

  4. I hope darling Richard has a very good dialect coach who is helping him to get the accent right. If he is to play the kind of roles I would like to see him play in the future, he’ll have to be able to do a credible American accent. Period.That’s just the way things are. But hell, if Andy Lincoln can do it, so can Richard!

    • Well, see, that’s what I have been thinking. If Andrew can do it, Richard can do it, too! And honestly, some American accents are harder to capture than others, but southern and south central US accents seem to be a lot easier for Brits and Aussies to master. For one thing, the dropping of “r”s at the end of words. A lot of people here would say “Portah” instead of “Porter.”

  5. I definitely do NOT want him end up on a “worst accent” list…Should he fail to get the accent right, it would lead people to question his acting skills.. (Not sure whether that’s fair or not.. but it would happen!)

  6. Yes, it is important that he get the accent right. Whether it is an American accent or not! If he were playing a Kiwi or South African I imagine people from those parts of the world would want to hear a credible accent as well. It just so happens that most of the biggest movies in the world are made by American film companies and take place in the USA. Which means that if Mr. Armitage wants to work in the US and not be stuck in “the British guy” roles, he will have to learn to master American accents (unless he’s lucky, like Sam Worthington).

    For me the issue is of accent is heavily influenced by my views on why we go to the movies. I like to get lost in the film. It is a form of escape for an hour or two, where I can lose myself in another world. So why is the accent important? Because every time an actor lets his assumed accent slip, I’m taken out of the fantasy world created by the film and reminded I’m watching actors on a screen. If that happens, the actor hasn’t done his job properly.

    Great analysis, Fedora Lady!

    • Thank you, Jas. I tried. And excellent point about being immersed in this other world when we go to the movies. An actor slipping in and out of their character’s accent can be really distracting (or doing such a horrible job with the accent so that we are more focused on how they are speaking than what they are actually saying–also very annoying). When I watch RH: Prince of Thieves, I halfway expect a cornfield with a baseball diamond to appear because Costner just fails to convince me he’s British. It takes something away from the film.

      I just don’t want RA to be typecast as the British baddie, for example. Yes, he’s British and he’s a great baddie, but he’s capable of sooooo much more than that.

      If he were someone of more limited range–OK I am going to mention Hugh Grant here. No offense to HG fans, but even he has cheerfully admitted his limited abilities–then only using his native accent might be acceptable. But let’s say I hold Richard to a higher standard, too. 😉

  7. Lol it is funny that you mentioned Sarah AND kevin costner. KC’s acceny is sooo distracting in RHPoT. I think i can forgive RA an accent slip. But i know he will work hard to get it eifht

    • I think they would have been a lot better off to have either hired a Brit or an American actor who can actually do a Brit accent, but I know they were going for box office potential with KC’s casting. 😉 And then Alan Rickman basically stole the show. LOL It’s one thing if it’s an occasional slip of an accent. But if it’s constant, that is when it gets distracting. However, I have every confidence in Richard that he will do his damnedest to get it right, because that’s the way he’s always approached each role. And that’s one of the many things I appreciate about our gorgeous guy.

        • Oh, I think so, too. Kevin’s just a little too–bland? in comparison with Rickman. Another case the baddie being more interesting and fun than the hero. 😉 Oh, Sir Guy . . .

            • That’s my impression. Not that he’s an awful actor, he isn’t. Just that he’s kind of–bland. Nowhere near the intensity someone like Richard brings to his roles.

              • I quite liked Costner in a number of things, Untouchables, JFK, No Way Out, Bull Durham…Not the most versatile of actors admittedly but he can be good in the right roles. 🙂

              • While Kevin Costner may be a bit wooden and isn’t the best actor in Hollywood, I think he does a good job of finding and portraying the contradictions in a character — something he has in comman with RA. A couple of roles that come to mind are Butch in A Perfect World and Earl Brooks in Mr. Brooks. I liked 3000 Miles to Graceland and The Upside of Anger too. Not to mention the History channel’s recent series about the The Hatfield and McCoys that was nominated for 16 Emmys. But I have to admit it was disappointing that he didn’t do the English accent for RH.

              • I think perhaps he was a little too “American” for that particular role of Robin Hood. I think they were looking more for a box office draw than the best actor for the part. Hopefully Richard won’t be too “English” for Black Sky. As I have said, I don’t think KC is a bad actor; he just doesn’t capture my imagination in the same way RA does, but then, nobody else captures it the way RA does. 😉 Not even the much-vaunted Hiddles.

  8. Oh I really do hope he can do an American accent.You know, I am actually a little nervous about that. I really do want him to maintain his credibility. If he can master the accent, he will be able to get so much more work on this side of the pond which I suspect he wants.But I think that he would completely immerse himself in the role and what he needs to do to make it real for audiences, so here’s hoping we will all be blown away.

    I remember cringing everytime I heard Kevin Costner TRY to speak with the English accent. ANd frankly, an american sounding Robin Hood amongst british sounding cast was cringe worthy to me. ANd sometimes he would try to have the accent and sometimes, he didn’t. It was so out of whack, it was hard not to be critical.

    • Yeah, when it comes and goes as Costner’s did in the RH film, it’s almost worse than if he’d just stuck with his original accent throughout the film. And it was a poor casting choice IMHO for a legendary UK hero. Some actors can transcend their nationality and take on the mantle of another one successfully. For me, Meryl Streep is a good example of someone who can do that. I don’t think Kevin is particularly good at that. Doesn’t make him a bad actor, just a bit more limited in the roles he can best perform. By the same token, some actors just don’t fit well into costume roles. They are too contemporary. They look as if they are playing dress-up. RA, on the other hand, becomes the Victorian mil owner, the medieval henchman, and so forth.

      Richard has shown a lot of versatility in taking on personas and doing accents, so I am going to trust in his talent and his dedication to the role. And yes, I want his performance–and not the tornado!!–to blow the audience away. 😉

  9. It is not the point if Americans are obsessed with it or not, when it comes to accents there is right and wrong, and in this case it is up to the Americans to judge. I cannot tell a good American accent from a bad one and GOR’s accent didn’t bother me personally, but I have to rely on our American friends that said it was really awful. She didn’t do her homework (and those that did cast her and didn’t provided her with a coach) and that is never a good thing. Now extenuating circumstances may be that Spooks wasn’t intended for an American audience, she was only meant to give the impression of an American to a British audience. Just like the German count Friedrich in RH did sound nothing like a German but he was only meant to create the illusion of a German for an English-speaking audience. So maybe they can get away with it.

    Playing an American character in an American movie for an American audience is a different matter. Is HAS to be spot on. You can’t become the character without sounding like he is supposed to sound. And if RA doesn’t manage he will never be able to play convincing American characters and with things being as they are, most characters on our big and small screens ARE American. Sure, he doesn’t have to play Americans, he could also play Brits living in America and remain the typical Englishman like Colin Firth or Hugh Grant but that would seriously limit his options.

    BTW what accent should Tom Cruise have used in Valkyrie? The real Stauffenberg most definetely spoke German, not English with a German accent, when talking to other Germans. So I would find it silly if the actor would try that. Americans playing Germans is basically the same as German actors dubbing English-speaking actors for the German market. Of course in that case the accent is lost. If you think about it, it is weird, but it is what everyone here takes for granted.

    • I was thinking about that too, Jane! Stauffenberg should actually speak German! However, since it’s an American film,we can’t expect the main characters to speak in a foreign language, so I suppose American English would be OK. English with a German accent, now that seems a bit pointless to me.

      • English with a German accent sounds dreadful – I don’t want to know how I sound. Certainly a lot worse than I “sound” when writing! 😉

          • IIRC they are using their normal British accents? Why not? It is the equivalent to a dubbed film. Again, English with a French accent would be utterly silly. As long as he they are not called Mr. and Mrs. Monet.

    • Re Tom Cruise, I was just using him and this role as an example of a high-profile American actor sticking with his original accent rather than attempting something else. I think Cruise is an example of an actor whose ability to perform credible accents other than his own are somewhat limited. Personally I wouldn’t care what accent he chose to play any character, because I make a habit of avoiding Tom Cruise movies nowadays. 😉 I simply remember reading he opted to go with his normal accent. What I find amusing is when you have an international cast all speaking with different accents, few of which actually match up with the roles they are playing.

  10. I have to say that I did not get the impression from this post that Angie is saying or implying that Americans are superior although Americans tend to have much pride in our country. I was not born in America. I was born in Panama in Central America. That is where my family is from and before that my family came from Africa, but I am a very proud naturalized American citizen. Sometimes American pride irks others but there isn’t anything we can do about that.

    I took Angie’s post as solely about actors doing accents correctly in roles that they accept. I think that as an actor it is important to get accents down correctly but I don’t get all bent out of shape like others do if it isn’t perfect. I do hope and pray that Richard has his American accent down pat though since so many people will be judging him on it. I just want to see the man up on screen. He can sound like Miss Piggy in Black Sky for all I care. I didn’t give a hoot whether or not GOR did a convincing accent. I just wanted her to keep her hands and body OFF Richard. If it was Daniela that would have been fine. Who the heck wants to see Richard in bed with a lying conniving traitor.

    If RA doesn’t do the accent right he may screw up his chances for being cast in other American films, but I trust that he finally got it right or else he never would have been cast in Black Sky. I wonder what accent Richard is going to do when he proposes to me. 🙂

    I do recall Richard mentioning in an interview that he wants to break into American cinema. I don’t recall the exact quote so I don’t want to talk out of turn but why wouldn’t Richard want to come here and make it big? RA is a serious actor and he knows what it means to come here and succeed in films. I also believe that RA would love to make heaps of money, but what is wrong with that? I know RA said he loves his craft so much that he would do it for free but that does not mean he doesn’t want to make lots of money. It is not a crime to desire abundance. I know that we all very nearly worship the ground this beautiful man walks on, but he is a human being, not saint.

  11. My main concern about Richard getting the accent right is that if he doesn’t, he will limit the amount of work he gets in the US. (I definitely want him to get a lot of work so we don’t have too many periods of drought. That last drought just about killed me.) When I heard his accent in the “Words and Music” program, I couldn’t help but cringe. Unfortunately, that preoccupation with the accent got in the way of my enjoyment of the program. I was so tickled to hear Richard but then I heard that accent and I felt kind of bad about how Un-American it sounded. I’m sorry if I sound like a snobby American, but it’s how I felt. Sp. still keeping my fingers crossed!!!

    • Laurie, you were far from the only one cringing as I recall. He clearly needed to do a lot of work on his American accent. And that’s what I have been trying to say, like it or not–if he doesn’t come up with a reasonably credible US accent, it will almost certainly limit US film work.

  12. If I may add a note here, I’d just like to say that no matter what country you come from if an actor is to portray someone from that country you want them to SOUND as if they do. As many of you know, I’m a Scot by birth and I can always spot a fake Scottish accent and some of them make me cringe! Let me assure you not everyone who comes from Scotland speaks with a Glasgow accent and that is the one they seem to try to adopt!! In fact there are some Scottish accents that I myself have difficulty understanding! But I am also forgiving and if an actor sounds credible for the most part I don’t have a hissy fit if they don’t get it 100% correct. 🙂

    So for a non-American like me (even though I’m now a Canadian) I personally would be hard pressed to distinguish the difference between many of the regional US accents, so if Richard sounds “American” even if not PRECISELY an Oklahoman or whatever accent he is meant to have, to me and possibly many others around the world, surely that is more to the point. BTW, when I think how he managed to do SO may accents in those audiobooks and in the CBeebies series, I think he’d do just fine. Personally I wish he could have kept his own accent, but “there you go”! 😉

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, Teuchter, but isn’t the Glaswegian accent supposed to be one of the thickest of the Scottish accents? Filmmakers tend to do the same thing with southern accents here. Trust me, there are a number of different varients on the southern accent (my Tennessee relatives pronounce certain things completely different than we do down here) but it seems that actors are often largely encouraged to adopt a heavy “cracker” accent. One of the problems I had with the actress playing Zelda Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris was the real Zelda was from a fine old Montgomery family and the Kim sounds too “countrified” in the film. (Look, I know that doesn’t mean diddly-squat to most people, but it did distract from the performance for me. I’m just sayin’ . . .)

      And I think wherever we may hail from, it’s only natural we might want the actors portraying “us” to get it right.

      Listen, If Richard can manage a generic mid-Atlantic newscaster’s type accent, it’s all good. Doesn’t have to sound like he was born and raised an Oakie from Muskogee. But–if he sounds like he did in Words and Music and he is supposed to be from the American heartland, then, yeah, Houston, we’ve got a problem. American audiences would be raising their eyebrows big time. Again, that was two full years ago, and we can only trust he’s greatly improved his repertoire in terms of American accents since then.

      • Yes it is one of the thickest but not THE thickest IMO!! Let me say I’m thankful they don’t use an Aberdeen or Aberdonian accent even if it is my home town!! As my mom used to say, “There’s Aberdeen and then there’s Aiberdeen”!! You would hardly know a word they were saying! I think you can even find an example of it on YT! Horrid!!

        I think I mentioned this elsewhere but don’t forget that Richard has been hanging out with Lee Pace!! Born in Chickasha Oklahoma I believe????? So maybe he already had a head start on polishing the accent! 😉 Fingers crossed! 😀

        • Good point about Lee. One of the few Americans in The Hobbit . . . and yes, he is originally from Oklahoma. 😀 I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t try to pick up some pointers. Remember when he taped his driver who was from Durham so he could work on his Geordie accent? I can understand almost any accent from the British Isles (I have actually served as Benny’s interpreter at times) but there are a few that trip me up. 😉 I used to work with a woman who originally hailed from Edinburgh. She had been in the States for a while, but when she got excited or upset, the Scottish burrrrrr really did come out. Oh, and her sister once dated Sean Connery. Back before he became a star. 😉

          • It’s strange but the Glaswegian accent seems to be one of the hardest for people to lose too unless they came here as very young children. Some of them have been here for most of their lives but sound as if they are FOTB as they say here. (“Fresh off the boat” in case anyone was wondering!) I’ve no idea why that is.

            • Some accents seem to be harder for people to lose than others, that is for sure. I am a natural mimic, so if I stick around someone long enough, I start unconsciously picking up their accent. The first time I came home from South Dakota, my oldest sister said, “Gosh, Ang, you are starting to really sound like a Yankee.” Well, I was quite indignant. Then I listened to myself. And by golly she was right . . . If I moved to Canada, I’d start sounding Canadian. If I moved to England, I’d begin to sound English. Not intentionally. It just–happens. ??

              • I know exactly what you mean! The first time I was in NZ we were only there for three weeks and could hear myself pronouncing some words the way they did! As I child I spent a good part of my summers with family in a small seaside town. When I stepped onto the bus to go there you would have thought that someone had flipped a switch as suddenly I was speaking in their dialect. The reverse happened when I was coming home! My Mom got quite a kick out of it! 😀

                When Canadians go to other countries, Angie, people often ask them if they are Americans! That is what happened to a family who came back to Scotland after living in Canada for a number of years and their son got the nickname of Donald Yank! 🙂

              • And to me, a lot of British actors doing American accents actually tend to sound Canadian. It’s a difference in certain vowel sounds that my ear catches.

  13. I can understand Americans cringing when they hear their accent done badly. Believe me, someone who hasn’t mastered the Australian accent sounds just as bad. On our trips to Hawaii, my husband and I have been mistaken for New Zealand, English and South African tourists. Is it because when our accent is faked for film and TV it’s often exaggerated, and that’s what is expected to come out of our mouths? I don’t have the same problem picking up on a US accent.

    Generally speaking for myself, an actor having a US accent that’s regionally spot-on isn’t important when watching a movie, although if the setting is in the South I tend to expect the actors talking like Southerners. If Richard has to have an American accent, then as long as he sounds generically American I’m content. It’s enough to keep me in that fantasy world that Jas refers to. At the same time, I realise he needs to be reasonably convincing to local movie-goers by sounding like one of them.
    Yes, he does need to prove himself, show TPTB he can master an accent in order to keep his options open and the work coming, but for me personally it’s a real shame he’s not playing a British schoolteacher, and keeping that beautiful accent of his.
    I’m interested in hearing the Kiwi/Aussie actors in TH, wondering if they will sound more English in order to blend in with the others in the cast. I’m also curious to know if the Kiwi accent is obvious to those of you who have heard them in the vlogs. Would you mistake them for Aussies?

    • I could seem to detect a difference with some of the Kiwi actors more than others . . . maybe they were already trying to assimilate into the “Englishness?” And maybe some have stronger accents than others . . .

      I think there is a tendency to exaggerate accents for film and television, whatever those accents might be. Listen, I’ve traveled enough to know a lot of people are surprised at how Benny and I sound. Yes, I have a southern accent, but it’s soft-edged, not harsh. I don’t sound like something off of The Beverly Hillbillies. And Benny almost doesn’t sound southern at all–and he grew up here and has lived here for forty years of his life. Somehow people expect us to sound different than we do.

      And maybe people are expecting Crocodile Dundee and his missus when they hear you and your hubby. 😉 Who knows??

      Maybe one day Richard will get to play a British college professor. Literature. And he reads poetry aloud to his students, a well-worn calf-bound volume in those elegant hands, reading glasses a la Harry, perched on that handsome aquiline nose . . . hmmmmmmm.

    • This is just what I was trying to convey above but you said it far better than I. In spite of all I’ve said on the subject I truly do understand that if Richard is portraying someone from Oklahoma he should sound like that. I wonder if they insisted on that accent for the part? I mean he could have come from anywhere yet still live and teach in Oklahoma!! I’d better stop going on and on about it! I’m sure I’m going to miss his own lovely accent, though! 😉

      Aussie and Kiwi accents are two of my favourites! I can usually tell them apart so hopefully wouldn’t mistake one for the other generally speaking.

      • But we don’t know the details of the script and the backstory of the character. It may essential that the character speak with an American accent–you know, the hometown guy who was a great athlete/brain in his school days and then came back to his alma mater to teach–I am just throwing stuff out there, but you see where I am going with this. It might not be logical for him to be British. I certainly hope to hear him in future roles with his natural accent which I adore, but don’t forget–we’ve got at least two movies’ worth of Thorin (not sure how much will be in third film).

        Bottom line–he. has. to. prove. he. can. do. a. credible. American. accent. It’s not as if he’s never going to sound like an Englishman again in his roles, guys. But if he wants a better variety of roles and opportunities, he’s got to pass this litmus test. I don’t mean to sound like a crank about this, but I am thoroughly convinced it is the case.

        • You don’t sound like a crank, sweetie, I actually do agree with you. It’s the way the film industry works, whether we like it or not. I’m just being pig-headed because I love how he sounds. 😉

          PS Sorry about the italics in my previous comment, I forgot to close them off!

          • Mezz, I worked for a Kiwi woman for almost a year when I was in London and her accent sounded very much like Peter Jackson’s! So I always smile whenever I hear Peter speak. 🙂 And it’s somewhat similar to the Aussie accent but I can definitely tell them apart. Maybe it’s because I spent the late 90s “studying” the Aussie accent as a fan of Pat Rafter and Aussie movies! 🙂
            Btw., how did your switch on the italics?

          • Yeah, me, too, Mezz . 😉

            Fair enough… if Richard has actually said he wants to make it big in America, then he needs to do a credible American accent if he’s supposed to be an American, born and bred.

            But he doesn’t have to rank in the top 50 actors in Hollywood (nor be in the salary scale of the top 50 actors) to be a success.

            I didn’t say that anyone in particular was money-grubbing. Maybe I used incorrect terminology – what I meant was that, just because some actors command high salaries, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re great actors or that they are respected by discerning producers/directors and fellow thespians.

            Some actors would rather have that respect than ridiculously extreme salaries. We have quite a few very good actors in Australia who don’t really care if they make it big in Hollywood or not. Some are content to stay here; some may venture to the US occasionally for what they consider a worthwhile project and others prefer to work consistently in the UK.. And there are British actors who’ve said the same. Hollywood is not always the Holy Grail for all actors

            I’d like Richard to have world-wide fame and as much money as he can earn! But I think Judit is wrong in saying that Richard wants heaps of money in return for his services. I have been following his career for 13 years as I said and I’ve never seen a report of his saying that anywhere. Also, I do not worship Richard nor think he is a saint – he’s just a normal human being., warts and all.

            And I’ve still to work out what Judit meant here: “Can’t see what is wrong with doing TV in the US. Some high quality stuff is being made there with better production values than in the UK. Maybe he’d be able to stop making silk purses out of sows’ ears! Would that be a bad thing?”

            Please explain

            • High pay definitely does not automatically equal a high degree of talent. I read recently that Kim Kardashian was the second highest paid “actress” on American TV last year. I put the word actress in quotes because this is a woman who became famous for a raunchy sex tape. She has a reality show. She has her own cologne, clothing line, etc. But an actress she is NOT. *sigh*

            • Just so we don’t leave poor Judit scratching her head in confusion, but the comments theorizing Richard may want to make lots of money were by Xenia, not Judit, Kathryn. Nor can I actually find the quote about silk purses here in the responses..I’ve read back through all the comments several times thinking I had somehow overlooked it and it’s not in this thread. Maybe another blog entry?

              • On Gisbornesboy’s blog of 15 Aug (30 Day Richard Armitage challenge day 24- about a cameo role we like to see Richard in), Judit said:

                But there are loads of English actors in GoT and some in TB! Can’t see what is wrong with doing TV in the US. Some high quality stuff is being made there with better production values than in the UK. Maybe he’d be able to stop making silk purses out of sows’ ears! Would that be a bad thing? And as far as I know GoT was not shot in the US. Doing TV in the US does not necessarily mean he’d have to lose his English accent- Tim Roth used his original accent in Lie To Me! Plus, we were only talking about a cameo role here which would only mean a “dash across” the pond as you put it! :)”

                I actually said that I hoped Richard wouldn’t stay in the US for too long doing movies or television – I didn’t say there was anything wrong with doing US television. I won’t back down from saying I hope he spends at least sometime doing UK films and television. Lots of people work in the US on and off without settling there and that’s what I’m hoping Richard does.

                I was wondering what she meant by “maybe he’d be able to stop making silk purses out of sows’ ears”?

                And I’m glad she said that “some high quality stuff is being made there (the US)” -some maybe but certainly not all – many are woeful!

                But then she went on “with better production values than in the UK”. That last part is a matter of opinion, not fact. I think the Brits do a lot of different television genres way better than the Americans. Just an opinion, not necessarily fact.

              • A-ha no wonder I was completely confused and couldn’t find what you were referencing. You were referring to a different blog. Perhaps it would be better if the two of you discussed it at gisborneboy’s blog if that is where Judit’s comments originated. Thanks.

              • Angie is right, Kathryn, you should have replied to my comment there and then on the GB’s blog (or maybe you have only I haven’t seen it?) and we could have cleared up any misunderstandings straight away! This is not the right place for it. 🙂

            • Kathryn,where have I said RA wanted heaps of money in return for his services? How you arrived to the conclusion that my comment on Seba’s blog meant that, is honestly beyond me…I merely said it would not be a bad thing for him to do an American TV show with high production values and good writing.

          • Oh, I adore how he sounds. Total sucker for Brit accents and particularly Richard’s vowel sounds. The “U” gets me every time. In the best of all possible worlds, he could play every role with his native accent. Alas . . . this isn’t the best of all possible worlds. Although it’s a heck of a lot better with RA in it, wouldn’t you agree? 😉

            • Can’t resist to mention would love for him to be on an HBO production with his original accent. It has been a stepping stone for a many brit actor into a US audience. GoT is filmed in Ireland btw. And getting the accent right is not so much about the big bucks in Hollywood but about opening up his audition range to wider choice of roles anywhere!

              • Fanny, some of us around here have become GoT addicts (I am looking at you, Judit, my dear) and we would dearly love it if our darling RA could play a role in it in a future season complete with his original accent. And thank you–yes, it’s not about making pots of money, it’s about the OPPORTUNITIES for roles, about having more choices!

        • I agree with you 100 % Angie! And I agree with Mezz, you did not sound like a crank! RA has never been one to shy away from a challenge, and this is definitely one heck of a challenge. But it’s certainly doable. The success of other talented British actors in American film and TV roles is a proof of that! 🙂

          • I think of some of my favorite television shows and films and they feature Brit actors who are playing Americans-True Blood and Homeland, Beginners with Ewan and Chris Plummer, just to name a few. I thought Damian Lewis WAS American when I first saw him in Band of Brothers (that’s the first time I recall seeing Dexter Fletcher, too aka Count Friedrich, and I thought he was American as well). I would never have guessed Ryan Kwanten was an Aussie (and his intelligent and articulateness displayed in interviews shows it sometimes takes smart to play dumb really convincingly. He’s great as Jason).

            So oh yes, yes, it can indeed be done. You are right, he is not a man to back down from a challenge. If the man afraid of deep water can endure being waterboarded not once, but TWICE and being underwater in a tiny submarine, I like to think he can master this whole accent thing, too.

  14. Wow, this has sparked a lot of comment! I agree with so much said here. Mainly that if you are portraying a certain character, it has to be right, accent and all. As a Brit, it spoils my enjoyment of and concentration on a film if, say, an American is playing someone English and gets it wrong. Johnny Depp’s success as Capt Jack Sparrow is not just down to how he looks but how he sounds – his accent is breathtaking. So, I fully appreciate how Americans feel when Brits don’t get it right. If RA is playing an Oklahoman (?) I have little doubt that he’ll work very hard indeed to perfect the accent – and he really needs to. He’s a good mimic (probably helped by his musical background which has given him a good ear) and can certainly do regional English accents pretty convincingly. Perversely, I strongly suspect that his original East Midlands accent has been elocuted (?) out of him and replaced with a neutral middle-classish accent which, whilst very pleasant to listen to, sounds ever so slightly off.

    • A poorly executed accent can definitely be a distraction and a detriment to enjoying a film/series. Maybe I wouldn’t have despised the character of Sarah Caulfield so much if her accent hadn’t grated on my nerves. Nah, I probably would still have detested her LOL Johnny was great as Captain Jack, no doubt about it.

      I suspect you are right about Richard’s original accent being at least somewhat neutralized. It’s done here to actors and newscasters who are trained to speak in a Mid-Atlantic accent to overcome their regional accents. That’s why so many news anchors sound eerily the same here. And then you have those distinctive souls such as Holly Hunter who has keep her twangy southern tones her entire career.

      I love the fact that in RL we don’t all sound the same, but it seems to me we are becoming increasingly homogenized in terms of regional accents and dialects. There is a certain type of southern accent which I mainly hear amongst the elderly nowadays. It is the aural equivalent of a slice of pecan pie–thick, rich and delicious. Cultured. I still think of a former co-worker whose neighbor was commiserating with her over the fact her husband had asked for a divorce by email. Miss Burchie took a sip of her Scotch and said, “Why . . . that sun of a biii-utch.” 😉

      • I just love Miss Burchie! Actually, over here, the BBC over the last years has gone the other way and positively discriminates towards people with regional accents. Although I admit I do so miss BBC English; hardly anyone speaks it any more.

        As for Sarah Caulfield, *hiss*, *spit*.

        • Me, too! When I heard what Eric had done to Lea with that email stunt, I was thinking exactly the same thing as dear Miss Burchie!! 😉

          Speaking of changes in attitudes towards accents, I have heard of “mockneys” in England–people with posh backgrounds who try to sound as if they aren’t to gain a certain street cred, I suppose? Keith Allen’s daughter Lily has been referred to as a Mockney, I believe.

          • Wow, I’m impressed, Angie! How did you hear about that? Yes, you’re right on both counts. One of the original mockneys was Mick Jagger who’s background was middle-class but dumbed down his accent to give him more appeal with the younger generation.

            • I am not sure–probably either one of my books on Britishisms or a website. It’s one of these things that stuck in my head. I remember reading that Mick was the well-behaved kid who got good grades, not at all the rock and roll rebel he was later promoted as being.

              Of course, I am always bemused at the notion of Rod Stewart being this avid model train enthusiast, but he is. A local gentleman I wrote an article about has built several custom pieces for Rod, who has also visited him at his country home. He says Rod keeps performing to pay for his hobby. LOL Apparently when he tours he takes his model railway gear with him.

              • Seriously? How engaging. I knew his other great love was football (I think he almost played professionally) but I’d never heard about the model trains. Sweet.

              • Seriously, The gentleman showed me a model train enthusiastic magazine with a full spread on Rod. He has created some amazingly detailed trainscapes. Rod actually came to visit him in person on a couple of occasions. The gentleman said, “He had on a baseball cap and jeans and looked just like some fella from around here, except of course for that English accent.” 😉 Funny the things you can learn about famous celebs right here in Lower Alabama LOL

  15. Slightly OT but since GOR has been mentioned in this thread (and yes I hated her “Boston” accent too) I want to give credit where it is due. So, here is a shout out to GOR for nailing a generic American accent in Episodes. Plus, she’s an absolute riot–as is the entire cast.

    • Not really OT at all, given the discussion, NG. Thanks for sharing this because this gives me more encouragement, actually. If GOR was finally able to nail a generic American accent–why, indeed, shouldn’t Richard be able to do the same?? The only other things I had seen her in were with her own accent, which, as I said, I find very nice, so I am glad for this piece of info. 🙂

  16. Because I’ve lived in the southern US all my life and have a “southern” accent and because people have always commented on my accent or made judgments about me based solely on that accent, a person’s accent or lack thereof has always intrigued me. And I have to admit it was one of the first things I considered when I heard that RA would be playing an American. And if he’s suppose to be portraying an Oklahoman, I wonder what the regional accent will sound like because so many actors can’t get the southern accent right. Many times it’s more of a caricature of a southern accent than anything else. It’s no different than wondering if Anne Hathaway or Renee Zellweger could do an English accent.

    • Sloan, for some reason your comment went to my spam folder, but thankfully I caught it was there and pulled it out. You and I are both southern girls and I know all too well the assumptions people can make about someone based on their accent. Most have been positive about my accent, but the negativity comes in when I say I am from Alabama because of all the negative connotations that brings to people’s minds.

      At any rate, accents CAN and DO matter. We’ve discussed in this thread how films and television often seem to promote a caricature of an accent rather the real thing. The Aussie readers feel their accent is often overdone, and you and I have both heard our fair share of bad imitation southern accents, I am sure.

      Funny you mentioned Rene Zellweger. I thought her British accent for Bridget Jones was quite good, but her southern mountain accent for Cold Mountain struck me as really overdone. It detracted from the performance for me.

      I know that Richard is such a stickler for getting the details right, and I think he will be really disappointed if he doesn’t pretty well nail the accent. As someone mentioned, he did get to know Lee Pace, a native Oklahoman, on the Hobbit set, so perhaps Lee gave him some pointers . . . fingers crossed!!

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